The MGH Report

Michael G. Haran, Proprietor

Teacher Equality

Posted by on Oct 5, 2014

Since the June 10th ruling in the education-equity case, Vergara v. California by Judge Rolf M. Treu, where he essentially agreed with the plaintiffs—nine California students—that the state’s laws governing teacher tenure and dismissal unfairly saddle disadvantaged and minority students with weaker teachers, tenure reform has become a hot-button item.

Teacher Equality #2

Teacher Equality

Ironically, this lawsuit isn’t about teacher tenure per say. It is about teacher equity, or rather teacher quality distribution, a subject that has been a focal point of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002. NCLB has received a lot of flak regarding its common standards and high-states testing mandate but its greatest achievement, or attempted achievement, has been the program’s Equality of Educational Opportunity of which Teacher Equity Planning is a part.

This lawsuit comes as California is working on its own “Plan for Highly Qualified Teachers” which was written and approved by the State Board of Education in September 2010. It reflects the steps the state is currently taking to ensure that students from low-income families and minority students are not taught at higher rates than other students by inexperienced, unqualified, or out-of-field teachers.

This month the U.S. Department of Education detailed its long-delayed “50-state strategy” for ensuring that poor and minority students get access to as many great teachers as their more advantaged peers. But fewer than half of states have separate teacher-equity plans on file with the department.

A national survey of teachers found that core classes in high-poverty schools are twice as likely to be taught by out-of-field teachers as similar classes at schools serving more advantaged students. The difficulty in compliance is reflected in the fact that states have a limited authority and capacity to ensure that districts distribute teachers fairly, since decisions like hiring and transfers tend to be made at the local level. In addition, states are also focused on developing new teacher-evaluation systems that take into consideration student outcomes.

Teacher Equity #1

Teacher Equality for Minority Students

The idea of teacher tenure started as part of the labor movement in the late 19th century when teachers demanded protection from parents, administrators and politicians who would try to dictate lesson plans or exclude controversial materials. New Jersey became the first state to pass tenure legislation when, in 1910, it granted fair-dismissal rights to college professors and during the 1920s it was extended to elementary and high school teachers as well. Today about 2.3 million public school teachers in the U.S. have tenure.

Though tenure doesn’t guarantee lifetime employment it does make firing teachers a difficult and costly process, one that involves the union, the school board, the principal, the judicial system and thousands of dollars in legal fees. As a result of union contracts and state-labor laws in most states, a tenured teacher can’t be dismissed until charges are filed and months of evaluations, hearings and appeals have occurred. Meanwhile, school districts must pay out thousands of dollars for paid leave and substitute instructors. The system is deliberately slow and can take anywhere from ten months to ten years.

Some school districts have resorted to separation or “buy-out” agreements to avoid extensive hearings and costs and in 1997, Oregon abolished tenure and replaced it with 2-year renewable contracts and a rehabilitation program for underachieving instructors. Other states like Connecticut, New York and Michigan have simply eliminated the word “tenure” from teacher contracts while retaining the due-process rights.

Judge Treu stayed his ruling pending appeals and knowing how long that could take, California’s Teacher Equity Plan may be in place way before teacher tenure is reformed.

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RISE OF THE INDEPENDENTS

Posted by on Nov 16, 2012

Now that the Republicans have shot themselves in the foot for primarily moving too fare to the right it looks now like it’s up to the Independents, moderate Republicans (if any still exist), watchdog groups and newspapers to check the balance of power that has been given to Democrat legislators and their overlords, the public unions, in a supermajority. Supermajority sounds like code for “power corrupts – absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

According to a recent Santa Rosa Press Democrat article Independents are the fastest growing voter block in California at about 22% compared to 30% Republican and 43% Democrat. Most Independent are, according to political consultant Mark Mellman, “closet partisan” center left or right. I believe most Independents are fiscal conservatives and social liberals. They can’t stand the continued waste and mismanagement in all levels of government but are terrified of the draconian way the current Republican Party governs.

I’m sure there exists some form of Independent political organizations but I would say that most Independents wouldn’t join such groups because it kind of defeats the purpose of being independent. One thing I’ve notice about the independents that I know is that they are very politically knowledgeable and are, if fact, kind of political “wonks” that love to find and expose elected official malfeasance and hypocrisy.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could just say, “we elected you, we trust you, and we have to work so we don’t have time to watch you but we know you won’t screw us.” Sadly, that’s not the case. The Republicans mistook morality for ideology and got kicked out of office but the Democrats have a shaky moral history of their own. The morality I’m talking about here is not about the bedroom it’s the morality that exist when one person puts their trust in another and the trusting person not only gets betrayed but also laughed at.

Where was the morality when back in 2002 when the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors enacted measures that have now increased pension costs by over 400 percent that initiated a Grand Jury to concluded that these pension increases were approved in a manner that did not comply with the law in an obvious attempt to dupe voters? In a September 2012 PD article on the subject Brett Wilkinson wrote “Zane and other county leaders, nevertheless, were unified in defending the legality of the enhanced pensions. Trying to roll them back would be a costly lost cause.” Many public sector jobs now pay more than similar private sector jobs and they are guaranteed. Where’s the morality in that?

The public employee retirement systems in Contra Costa, Alameda and Merced counties plan to reduce pension spiking starting Jan. 1 to comply with a new law Gov. Jerry Brown signed in September. Workers have vowed to sue (PD – 11/7/12 “Lawsuit certain over right to spike”). Since when did voters say it was okay for a public employee to roll their unused sick, vacation and car allowance pay into a life-time annuity which boost retirement pay up as much as 24%. Where’s the morality in that?

And how about our new Congressman Jared Huffman as reported by Chris Coursey (PD – 10/29/12 “Vote Yes, No, Maybe or Later’) “Or, you may have been surprised to find out that Assemblyman Jared Huffman missed 144 votes this year in the Assembly, only to add his vote to the record after each of those issues was decided. Where’s the morality in that and for that matter leadership?

I could go on but I have to get back to work. Independents we need you to stay vigilant.

 

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